Dr. Theodore C. Kariotis, Member of the Delegation of Greece to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea
In 1967, Malta’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Arvid Pardo, called for an international conference to devise a new law of the seas. In this call, he referred to the oceans as “the common heritage of mankind.” Fifteen years later, on December 10, 1982, nearly 120 countries signed the new United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), thereby ending one of the lengthiest and most significant international conferences of the modern era.
Part V of that Convention (and more precisely Articles 55 to 75) provides for an “Exclusive Economic Zone” (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles seaward from the coast. If all coastal states thus exercised their jurisdiction over their own EEZs, some 38 million square nautical miles would become their “economic patrimony. The oceans represent 71% of the total surface of the earth and that 32% of that area falls under the jurisdiction of coastal states. Consequently, inside these economic zones would lie 90% of all global fishing, 87% of all oil deposits, and 10% of all polymetallic nodules worldwide. The provisions of the EEZ constitute all new law. As Professor Bernard H. Oxman indicates:
“Measured by any yardstick ‑ political, military, economic, scientific, environmental, or recreational ‑ the overwhelming proportion of activities and interests in the sea is affected by this new regime.”
Article 56 of the Convention provides the following rights of the coastal state in its EEZ:
A. Exclusive sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, conserving and managing living and nonliving natural resources of both the waters and the seabed and subsoil.
B. Exclusive sovereign rights to control other activities such as the production of energy from the water, currents, and winds.
C. The right to control dumping of wastes.
D. The right to be informed of, participate in and to withhold consent in proposed marine scientific research projects.
E. The right to board, inspect, and arrest a merchant ship suspected of discharging pollutants in the economic zone.
Article 58 of the Convention provides the following rights of other states in the economic zone:
A. The high seas freedoms of navigation, overflight, and the laying of submarine cables and pipelines.
B. Other lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft, and submarine cables and pipelines.
The EEZ provisions have received widespread support and have become an integral part of international practice, especially now that the 1982 LOS Convention is actively being enforced. Additionally, Articles 55 and 86 of the Convention make it clear that the EEZ is neither a part of the territorial sea nor the high seas; it is a zone sui generis, with a statute of its own.
By the end of 2016, 137 countries had claimed 200‑mile EEZs or had established a 200-mile Exclusive Fishing Zone (EFZ). The countries benefiting the most from the EEZ concept are — in order of the size of their EEZ — the United States, France, Australia, Russia and Indonesia. If this concept were to be applied by all coastal Mediterranean states, the entire sea would be covered by EEZs of the littoral countries. The countries of the Mediterranean that would benefit most from an EEZ are Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and Malta.
THE BRAVERY OF CYPRUS
One of the most important events in the 50-year history of the Republic of Cyprus took place April of 2004 when the President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, proclaimed an Exclusive Economic Zone with Law 64/2004. The government of Greece immediately welcomed this Cypriot initiative without giving an explanation why Greece did not do the same thing. Furthermore, on the same day, the headlines of the Greek press heralded this important event without explaining to their readers what an EEZ is, since no one had explained to the Greek people this concept. The only thing the Greeks knew was that the Greek-Turkish dispute is related to that of the continental shelf and nothing else.
Cyprus had already signed an agreement on February 17, 2003 for the delimitation of the EEZ with Egypt, which was an important first step in the right direction. But it was, at the same time, a strange agreement because Cyprus had not yet created an EEZ! The problem was overcome by making the law retroactive from March 27, 2003, which was the date the Cypriot parliament ratified the agreement of the EEZ between Cyprus and Egypt. Turkey immediately reacted to the agreement between Cyprus and Egypt and did not recognize it. At the same time, Turkey made claims on the maritime areas that Cyprus and Egypt had delimited; although, as we are going to see, Turkey does not have any maritime borders with Egypt. Cyprus later made a similar agreement for the delimitation of the EEZ with Lebanon in January of 2007. Turkey immediately objected to the signing of this maritime agreement and alleged that Lebanon should ask for Turkey’s opinion before signing any agreement with Cyprus, since it should contain “a Turkish part,” according to Ankara. Both of these agreements were based on the internationally accepted principle of the median line and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The most important delimitation was that between the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the Government of the State of Israel, signed in Nicosia on 17 December 2010 (entry into force 25 February 2011).
THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
The Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by 22 states; its coastal zones (territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf) have been codified by UNCLOS. The Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994. At the time of writing, 167 states have ratified it (164 UN member states, plus the UN Observer state Palestine, the Cook Islands and the European Union).
The 1982 Convention drastically changed the maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. The most important changes include the following:
1. Every Mediterranean state has the right to extend the limits of its territorial sea to 12 miles.
2. The contiguous zone may be increased from the former 12 n.m. to 24 n.m.
3. The concept of an EEZ, if adopted in the Mediterranean, will subject the whole sea to the jurisdiction of the coastal states.
4. UNCLOS makes considerable changes in the right of free transit in international straits. A new concept of “transit passage” has been introduced, which cannot be suspended by the coastal states and applies also to aircraft.
One of the new terms of the Convention that does not apply to the Mediterranean is that of “archipelagic states.” The UNCLOS of1982 established that the term “archipelago” refers to a group of islands and interconnecting waters that are closely interrelated and form an intrinsic geographical, political, and economic entity. In the Mediterranean, only the Maltese islands would qualify under the above definition and even in that case its archipelagic waters will be quite small.
One of the ironies of the Third United Nations Conference of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was the fact that the above definition prevented Greece, with its numerous islands in the Aegean Sea, from using this concept. During the deliberations at UNCLOS, the head of the Greek delegation, Ambassador Constantine Stavropoulos, had indicated in a very insightful speech that “archipelago” is a Greek word that was used for the first time in history to describe the Aegean Sea which should not, therefore, be excluded from the definition of “archipelagic waters.” Unfortunately, the majority of the delegates were not persuaded by this strong argument and in the end the Aegean was excluded from the definition.
During the discussion in the Second Committee of UNCLOS III, Turkey attempted to include a provision that would have excluded “semi-enclosed areas” from having an EEZ, thus preventing the concept of the Exclusive Economic Zone from being applied to the Mediterranean. The Turkish proposal reads as follows:
The delimitation of the territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and continental shelf[ves] between adjacent and/or opposite States bordering semi-enclosed seas shall be effected in accordance with respective provisions of this [Convention], and taking into account all the relevant circumstances in such areas.
Greece opposed the Turkish position by explaining that “semi-enclosed seas” are part of the general provisions and no special arrangements are necessary for EEZs in semi-enclosed seas. The Greek position finally won the argument and UNCLOS III rejected the notion that semi-enclosed seas should have rules different from those universally applicable. The 1982 Convention recognized the concept of an “enclosed or semi-enclosed sea” but does not provide for any limitations on states bordering such seas.
Most Mediterranean countries have not established 200-mile claims not only because of the difficulty of delimitation, but also because of the assumption that the Mediterranean Sea is not a wealthy sea in terms of its living resources. But as coastal states continue to adopt EEZs, the pressure will increase upon the Mediterranean countries to do the same, since the fishing fleets of many of these countries have been excluded from areas pronounced to be exclusive economic zones, mostly in the North Sea and the coast of West Africa. When the entire Mediterranean area will be surrounded by EEZs it is expected that a more rational harvest and utilization regime will emerge.
Another concern, of course, is hydrocarbons, which have been discovered near the territorial waters of seven countries in the Mediterranean: Cyprus, Egypt, Italy, Israel, Libya, Spain, and Tunisia. Exploration activity has increased in the last decade, although there are still some political and legal obstacles that have not allowed other countries to proceed with their own offshore exploration. Most of these obstacles will slowly diminish when the Mediterranean countries establish EEZs. Nevertheless, exploration has certainly intensified, especially in the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean where the seabed lies under less than 3,000 meters of water.
Today the image of our marine mineral wealth has changed radically and the possibility that in a decade we are happy to talk about the miracle of hydrocarbons is no longer a dream of a summer night, of course, to do a right and serious job, something for which we are not famous.
Watching magazines and newspapers over the last five years, it is difficult not to be enthusiastic about the numbers that circulate and project that the marine mineral wealth of Greece amounts to billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic meters of natural gas, and above all to a country that is struggling with an inconceivable economic disaster, dreams of billions of dollars of expected profits.
A lot of ink has been poured around the possible quantities of hydrocarbons in Greece and as usual many Greeks have become geologists and geophysicists, and they have an opinion about the amount of hydrocarbons found on the seabed of the Greek seas.
Some of them believe that there are huge deposits, displaying astronomical numbers to promote their positions, and some others think there are some drops of hydrocarbons and in any case there is no evidence of even small deposits in our seas.
THE ROLE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
At present, most member states of the EU have established either an EEZ or an EFZ. Since many EEZ issues are also related to matters of the competence of the European Union as described by EU treaties and by Community law, we can assume that they extend to the establishment of an overall EEZ for the EU. Therefore, the implementation of an EEZ by an EU member state through national legislation or through an international organization will inevitably fall within the competence of the EU. The competence of the Community on matters involving the EEZ rests on the fact at many of the duties that were conferred on coastal states have an impact on areas of existing Community competence.
Furthermore, on November 3, 1976, the EC Council passed a resolution on the “External Aspects of the Creation of a 200-mile Fishing Zone in the Community” which is also known as the “Hague Resolution”. In this resolution, the Council declared that on January 1, 1977, the North Sea member states of the Community would extend their jurisdiction with regard to fisheries to 200 miles of their North Sea and North Atlantic coasts. It is important here to note that the Council also stated in this resolution that this action was “without prejudice to similar action being taken for other fishing zones within their jurisdiction such as the Mediterranean.” Although the resolution indicated that in the future such a zone will be extended to the Mediterranean, such an extension has not taken place to date.
The Community not only became a signatory of the 1982 Convention but, also ratified the Convention on January 1, 1998, a fact which should enhance its competence in all the areas in which Part V of the Convention confers rights and duties upon coastal states. Additionally, since the signing of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty the Community has undoubtedly transformed itself into a European Union with considerable powers and jurisdiction. Lately, the position of Turkey has become more difficult because the EU is insisting that Turkey, in order to become a full-member of the EU, should ratify UNCLOS as soon as possible.
The concept of an EU “Common EEZ Policy” is a very important one and the Government of Greece should actively pursue its establishment. This is because a Greek EEZ, which in fact will also be an EU EEZ, could resolve the Greek-Turkish dispute in the Aegean Sea without involving the issues of territorial waters and the continental shelf. A potential joint declaration proclaiming an EU EEZ in the Mediterranean will reduce the credibility of the casus belli threat frequently pronounced by the Turkish side.
As Ambassador Byron Theodoropoulos has stated:
It would seem that the stakes involved for Turkey in the Aegean are of an at least doubtful value. One might be justified to wonder, why is Turkey willing to pay the cost of confrontation? If Turkey has indeed a direct and vital interest in strengthening its relationship with the European Union by means of an ever closer association, why antagonize a member state of the Union and frustrate or at least considerably delay this process? Why spend so much diplomatic capital in friction with Greece, when it would be more profitable to establish a working relationship with Greece?
Against this background of relatively low stakes at a relatively high cost one wonders if the Turkish foreign policy has got its priorities right. What started as diversionary tactics in the context of the Cyprus problem has now become an end in itself and has created in Ankara the impression, not to say the fixation, that the Aegean is a promising bounty worth all the cost involved. This is regrettable from the Greek point of view. It is even more regrettable that the western community seems to choose an attitude of “equidistance” which in last analysis only encourages Turkey to push the half‑way mark progressively more and more toward the Greek side. Is this attitude of the West due to short‑sighted anticipation of commercial or investment advantages for the West in Turkey? Is it the perception of Turkey as a staunch ally of the West? Is it the lack of a clear‑headed assessment of the situation? Or a lack of a strong political will? Or a little of everything?
A GREEK EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE
Although Greece has a strong legal position concerning the delimitation of its continental shelf, the delimitation of an Exclusive Economic Zone is an equally viable method of resolving its dispute with Turkey in the Aegean Sea. A Greek Exclusive Economic Zone in the Aegean Sea is justified by the following reasons:
1. With its EEZ, Greece will safeguard the economic unity of its continental and archipelagic space. Greece has a total of 3,100 islands of which 2,463 are in the Aegean. By comparison, Turkey has only three islands in the Aegean. Another reason that most coastal states have unilaterally adopted the 200‑mile EEZ is to counteract the over‑exploitation of their coastal fish stocks. A large part of the Greek fishing fleet has traditionally operated in waters outside the Greek coasts and especially in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Now that many states are establishing an EEZ of their own, Greek fishermen have lost access to traditional fishing grounds. A Greek EEZ, therefore, would be beneficial to the fishing sector of the country, which, despite its small contribution (approximately 1%) to the Gross Domestic Product, has a substantial role in the nourishment of the Greek population, supplying protein of high nutritional value at a relatively low cost.
2. There are today 137 nations that already possess either an EEZ or an EFZ of 200 nautical miles. UNCLOS provides for an EEZ regime in which there are no restrictions, prohibiting islands from having an EEZ.
3. On March 10, 1983, the President of the United States signed a proclamation establishing an EEZ extending 200 nautical miles from the U.S. coastline. The area of this particular EEZ encompasses 3.5 million‑square nautical miles of ocean, an area 1.67 times larger than the land area of the United States and its territories.16 Thus, the United States have the largest EEZ on the planet Earth.
This EEZ contains vital natural resources, both living and non‑living, in the seabed, subsoil, and overlying water. Most important of all, however, this U.S. presidential proclamation gave an EEZ to all the islands of the United States, in accordance with UNCLOS. The United States, therefore, would be in a difficult position to argue against a Greek EEZ similar to the one it itself has established.
Furthermore, Cuba is only 90 miles from the coast of Florida, but the United States did not argue that Cuba, because it is an island, does not have any rights to an EEZ. In fact, the United States and Cuba came to an agreement for the delimitation of their respective EEZs using the method of equidistance, which Turkey immensely dislikes. Recently, the government of Cuba decided to start oil exploration in its own EEZ and this exploration is taking place 50 miles from the coasts of Florida.
4. When the President of the United States proclaimed an EEZ, the former Soviet Union initially objected to such a move. Eventually, on February 28, 1984, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a Decree on the EEZ of the USSR, also taking into consideration the relevant provisions of UNCLOS. The first article of the Soviet Decree stated:
“In maritime areas beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters (territorial sea) of the USSR, including areas surrounding islands belonging to the USSR, there shall be established an economic zone of the USSR, the outer limit of which shall be situated at a distance of 200 nautical miles measured from the same baseline as the territorial waters (territorial sea) of the USSR.
The delimitation of the economic zone between the USSR and states with coasts opposite or adjacent to the coast of the USSR shall be effected, taking into account the legislation of the USSR, by agreement on the basis of international law, in order to achieve an equitable solution.”
5. At the end of 1986, Turkey unilaterally proclaimed a 200‑mile EEZ in the Black Sea. This move was in accordance with the provisions of UNCLOS, which ironically Turkey has never signed or ratified and has always opposed. Concurrently, Turkey reached an agreement on the delimitation of the EEZ with the former Soviet Union. Turkey agreed that the continental shelf boundary which was established by the Soviet-Turkish Delimitation Agreement of 1978 was also valid for the delimitation of their EEZ. This agreement used the equidistance method and there were no provisions of special circumstances or any reference to enclosed or semi-enclosed seas. Thus Turkey, by accepting the concept of the EEZ as developed through UNCLOS, has weakened its position vis-à-vis Greece. This represents the fatal mistake for Turkey, a veritable Achilles heel in its dispute with Greece. The Black Sea is a semi‑enclosed sea similar to the Aegean Sea, thereby putting Turkey in a difficult position should Greece use the method of the median line.
Turkey came to a similar agreement with Bulgaria and Romania concerning the delimitation of their respective EEZs in the Black Sea. We should point out here that in the discussions between Turkey and Bulgaria, the Turkish side had argued that no special circumstances apply to the Black Sea. Therefore, Turkey contended that applying the equidistance principle to delimit the Turkish-Bulgarian boundary will lead to an equitable position, while Bulgaria believed exactly the opposite. Obviously, Turkey’s attempt to implement a “double standard” position regarding the treatment of two semi-enclosed seas (Black and Aegean) is difficult to defend; it is simply an attempt to make a clear differentiation between the delimitation of its maritime boundaries in the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.
What Turkey fails to understand is that a country cannot make a convincing argument by selectively choosing the parts of the Convention it likes. Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore, the last President of UNCLOS III, very wisely took note of such an eventuality by observing that:
Although the Convention consists of series of compromises, they form an integral whole. This is why the Convention does not provide for reservations. It is therefore not possible for States to pick what they like and disregard what they do not like. In international law, as in domestic law, rights and duties go hand in hand. It is therefore legally impermissible to claim rights under the Convention without being willing to assume the correlative duties.
THE FUTURE OF A GREEK EEZ
As of today, the Government of Turkey has not accepted the proposal of Greek governments since July 1974 to refer the Aegean dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Greece has a strong position because the Court would probably follow the pattern of the Anglo‑French arbitration in which it awarded a zone of twelve miles around the Channel Islands, even though the U.K. had maintained a three-mile territorial sea since 1878. Although we cannot conclude that a twelve-mile zone around islands is the rule of thumb for further delimitations, it is clear that the continental shelf or EEZ of an island cannot be less than its internationally recognized “maximum” territorial sea.
If a zone of twelve miles is given to the eastern Greek islands, Turkey’s continental shelf/EEZ would be limited. Turkey would receive only 2‑4% of the total area of the Aegean continental shelf under the 1982 UNCLOS. But since the Court has lately given emphasis to equity principles, the maximum area that Turkey could receive would be 10‑15% of the total continental shelf/EEZ area of the Aegean assuming, of course, that the Greek islands are entitled to at least a 12‑mile zone.
The possibility of combining the delimitation of the continental shelf and the EEZ by a single boundary is not unreasonable, especially since UNCLOS indicates that the legal basis for jurisdiction over the continental shelf and the EEZ within 200 miles does not rest on any geophysical concept of prolongation but on geographical adjacency measured by distance. It is, therefore, correctly asserted that
“it seems appropriate to say that, when an assessment of conflicting shelf rights is made by reference to the distance principle, the delimitation of these conflicting rights will be determined principally by geography (and not by geology or geomorphology), and the method will tend to be some form of modified equidistance. Also relevant is the alignment of the EEZ seabed rights with shelf rights within 200 miles. Both factors seem a fortiori to reinforce the relevance of the distance criterion for delimiting a single maritime boundary.”
A single maritime boundary is a very reasonable solution for most states, because they would not like to reach a settlement through a difficult process of negotiations for one maritime boundary and then start another in order to negotiate a settlement for the other maritime zone. Therefore,
“the single maritime solution seems to be the logical outcome of the extension of coastal State jurisdiction over the resources of the EEZ and the alignment of the jurisdiction with preexisting rights over the continental shelf.”
Also, the ICJ in its Judgment in Libya-Malta asserted that
“the two institutions — continental shelf and exclusive economic zone — are linked together in modern law. Since the rights enjoyed by a State over its continental shelf would also be possessed by it over the seabed and subsoil of any exclusive economic zone which it might proclaim, one of the relevant circumstances to be taken into account for the delimitation of the continental shelf of a State is the legally permissible extent of the exclusive economic zone appertaining to that same State.”
Further, it states:
“It follows that, for juridical and practical reasons, the distance criterion must now apply to the continental shelf as well as to the exclusive economic zone; and this quite apart from the provision as to distance in paragraph 1 of Article 76.”
As professor Phaedon Kozyris has also explained:
“If there was a case where a couple of small islands standing very close to a massive mainland, and without any geographical support from their own mainland, arrogantly claimed equal treatment, it was St. Pierre & Miquelon! Yet the Court rejected the idea that their share was to be reduced because they were purportedly `superimposed’ on the Canadian continental shelf or because they were not independent. By the way, Newfoundland itself is as much of an island as St. Pierre and Miquelon! No, islands should not be enclaved within their territorial sea and yes, they have the potential of generating full 200-mile zones. No, the location of potential hydrocarbon resources has no bearing on this delimitation. Judge Weil applauded this treatment of islands which, in his view, abandons the impossible and internally contradictory ‘theory of special geographical circumstances’ and constitutes, therefore, a milestone. With this case, any doubts about the equal treatment of islands have been laid to rest.”
Having ratified the Convention, Greece should take the initiative to proclaim an EEZ adhering strictly to the provisions of UNCLOS. Since Turkey has argued unsuccessfully that islands are not entitled to a continental shelf/EEZ, it would be even more difficult for it to claim that islands are not entitled to an EEZ. Unlike the continental shelf, the EEZ does not exist ipso facto but has to be proclaimed, and a request to delimit the EEZ entails the delimitation of both elements. Therefore, if the “Aegean Dispute” finally reaches the ICJ, a request should be made by Greece that the Court’s judgment should be directed to the delimitation of both the continental shelf and the EEZ.
The map below depicts clearly the EEZ of Greece based on UNCLOS. Everyone understands the big problem that Turkey is facing and why it does not want to negotiate the delimitation of the EEZ in the Aegean archipelago with Greece. From this map we can also see the positive impact of the islands of Kastelorizo and Stroggyli have on the EEZ of Greece.
The second map depicts the size of the EEZ of Turkey in the Aegean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This map clearly indicates that Turkey does not have any maritime boundaries with Egypt.
The delimitation of a Greek EEZ with its neighboring countries, except Turkey, presents the following picture:
The morphology of the Albanian coasts do not represent any difficulties and the fact that Albania reduced, in 1990, its territorial waters from 15nm to 12nm is a good indication that the concept of equidistance will be appropriate for an EEZ delimitation with Greece.
The delimitation of the maritime zones between Greece and Albania took place in Albania in 2009 using the median line (equidistance) method and the delimitation mode was called a “multipurpose maritime limit” because Greece had not declared yet an EEZ. It was also important that Albania has accepted Greece’s position that all the islands in the region have full rights of maritime zones. All that remained was to have an agreement at a three-nation point where Greece, Albania and Italy are bordering on it. As we know, the Supreme Court of Albania declared illegal this agreement with the obvious interference of Turkey.
But the Albanian government forgets that with this agreement Albania received 50.87% of the maritime zone compare to 49.13% for Greece, which is the highest percentage that Albania could receive on the basis of International Law and international practice, in particular on the basis of the principles and rules of UNCLOS, which both countries have ratified. Greece must insist that this agreement was absolutely fair and legal for the two states and pressure Albania to agree to it, so that the Albanian Supreme Court cannot again find justification for rejecting it.
The delimitation of an EEZ will have positive results for both countries, since they will be using the equidistance method. As baselines, from the Greek side, will be used the islands of Kastelorizo, Stroggyli, Crete, and Karpathos.
Because of the smooth coastline of this country, the delimitation of an EEZ is not envisioned to create any problems or difficulties.
But the delimitation with Egypt started the wrong way from the beginning when the Greek government of Kostas Karamanlis decided to start discussions with the Egyptian government, which had an absolutely pro-Turkish policy, in 2009. Greece made a tragic mistake because it started its talks with Egypt without obtaining any explicit and clear assurance from it that full effect will be given to Kastelorizo and Stroggyli.
Greece received a slap from the Egyptians when they informed the Greek side that talks will begin on delimitation of maritime zones with Turkey when Egypt does not have a maritime border with Turkey! Egypt could only have a maritime border with Turkey only if the rights of the Greek islands of Kastelorizo and Stroggyli are not recognized.
Thus, Egypt briefed the Greek side that it would have talks with them in Cairo on June 20, 2009 and shortly thereafter on June 22, 2009 with the Turkish side! The then Foreign Minister of Greece, Dora Bakoyannis, instead of making a strong protest on this Egyptian position, she went to the meeting on June 20th knowing that two days later Egyptians and Turks would sit at the same table.
Lately, there is a closer relationship between the governments of Greece and Egypt and they have created the geographical coordinates for the delimitation of the EEZ of the countries. It appears that the change of government in Egypt has opened a new road that makes Greece optimistic for a delimitation that will be useful for both states and will facilitate the participation of Cyprus not only to finally become a delimitation with Greece but also to complete the delimitation of Cyprus with Egypt in 2003, when the Clerides government wrongly accepted the intervention of the Simitis government for partial delimitation of its EEZ with Egypt in order not to disturb Turkey.
This is the easiest case, since the two countries have already delimited their continental shelf, on the 24th May, 1977 using the equidistance method. Therefore, in the future, they could sign an agreement in which they will specify that their respective EEZs coincide with that of their continental shelf. But, we have discovered that while the delimitation agreement is ready and complete because the two countries have even agreed on the geographical coordinates, the Italian Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries does not agree by arguing that Italian fishermen have for decades now been traditional fishing rights in the Ionian Sea and they reach up to 6 miles of our territorial waters.
The Italian Minister is also not favoring the declaration of the Greek EEZ in the Aegean Archipelago, claiming that the Italians also have traditional fishing rights in Rhodes and Crete! Moreover, he seems to have put his hand on the delimitation between Greece and Albania, saying that even in that region the Italians have traditional fishing rights. So, today, 40 years after the delimitation of the continental shelf, we have not yet managed to delimit the two countries’ EEZ.
As regards the delimitation of the EEZ between Libya and Greece, it should be noted that Libya’s position is that Greece should recognize as legal the closure of the Gulf of Sidra, about 302 n.m., and to accept that Gavdos cannot be calculated in such delimitation. Greece argues that the delimitation method should be the median line (equidistance), while Libya supports the method of equity, insisting on the legality of the closure of the Gulf of Sidra. Today, Greece has to take an initiative because the present situation in Libya and create a unilateral delimitation based on equidistance and then give exploration rights to oil giants such as EMI, TOTAL, and ExxonMobil which are well aware of the morphology of the area.
Finally, Turkey knows well that its position is weak as far as the EEZ is concerned. For this reason, it has never mentioned the three words, Exclusive Economic Zone, in any conversations it has had with the Greek governments since 1982. The great question is why Greece also avoids mentioning these same three words that Turkey fears so much and does not bring them to the negotiating table. The only possible explanation that one can give to this question is simply that Greece is suffering from a “syndrome of fear”.
Today our country is at a crucial crossroad and we need to take some major initiatives, especially now that Turkey is in a very deep crisis. Instead of dealing with the Quartet that regularly visits the Hilton Hotel, it is time to engage in the creation of our own “quartet”, which will comprise of Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.
This quartet must sign a different memorandum that will not only deal with energy issues but will include an economic and military alliance, since the European Union is unable to give us a real help on our important and crucial issues for our survival.
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